I had only one thing on my mind when I watched this film…
WHY DIDN’T I WATCH THIS AT THE IMAX?!
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is epic, filled with fantastic performances, great visual effects and a story that surpasses the first film in EVERY department.
I’ve never read any of the books but my first encounter with The Hunger Games took place on a flight back from New York. So ok, watching a grand spectacle film on a small tablet sized screen was not ideal. Nevertheless, despite the faults I enjoyed the first film…certainly better than watching any of the Twilight films!
Catching Fire takes place where the last film ended. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutchinson) return home as victors of the 74th Hunger Games. But life doesn’t return back to normal as they embark on a victor’s tour around the districts whilst maintaining their “fake” relationship for the cameras. On their travels, they notice the growing tension of a revolution against the peacekeepers and President Snow (Donald Sutherland) in the Capitol. To stop any thought of uprising, President Snow introduces “The Quarter Quell” for the 75th Hunger Games where the participants are former tributes/winners of the games. Katniss and Peeta must face battle in the games once again where the competition is dangerous and competitive than ever before.
“Nobody ever wins the games. Period. There are survivors. There’s no winners.” – Haymitch Abernathy
I really loved The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. As a sci-fi fan, it has everything that appeals to me as a genre. To the untrained eye, people might watch this film and think it is a carbon copy of the first film…and part of that is true. Catching Fire may be repeating the same old things, but what makes this film better than the first, is it’s ability to make a point. It deepens the mystery and the adventure that was missing from the first film. The stakes have been raised and the consequences are greater than before. Just like the track name from Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy album, “The Game has Changed”.
Catching Fire reminds me of The Running Man, probably one of my favourite 80s guilty pleasure films. It’s a world ruled by entertainment and control.
Participation in the games is treated as a high point in a teenager’s life. Katniss and Peeta have to play up to the cameras of their “love”, giving everyone a topic of discussion or a positive feel-good. Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) whose bright white teeth can be seen from space, interviews the contestants, gossiping on their lives and side-tracking away from issues like how A-List celebrities get interviewed on the red carpet. Contestants are stylised and dolled up so they can fit into the capitol of the rich and decadent where life is bright and colourful, full of teacakes and drinks that can make you feel sick so you can stuff your face with more. On the flipside, the people living in the districts are starving, trying to survive in their grey world. If there was ever a film that plays up to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, then look no further than The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The games are merely a distraction, an illusion from what is really going on and Katniss and Peeta are the first hand witnesses of the growing resentment and discontent of segregation and control in the districts.
Even the contestants participating in the 75th Hunger Games are not happy with the Quarter Quell. Promised a lifetime of riches and never having to do the games again, the Quarter Quell represents a broken promise and characters like Johanna Mason (Jena Malone) uses the build-up to the games as an act of defiance.
“It must be a fragile system if it can be brought down by just a few berries.” – Katniss Everdeen
The strength of the film really shines from the outstanding performance from Jennifer Lawrence. Never fazed by the occasion, she consistently grows in every performance I’ve seen her in. As Katniss, she embodies the emotional vulnerability (and sometimes naivety) whilst displaying her strength. Katniss has a lot of heart and is a character that “gets it”. The games are barbaric – it’s kids killing kids for the sake of entertainment, like an Americanized Battle Royale. Her dreams about the games continuously haunt her because living on the edge and doing what is necessary is what it took to survive. She has become the face of the rebellion (whether she wanted to or not) and every time she is tested, both physically and mentally, she shows her defiance. For example there’s a great scene where she is evaluated. She takes a dummy of a peacekeeper, some paint and a rope and hangs it like an effigy for everyone to see. She completes her statement with a bow and a smile. Its scenes like that makes her character so popular and why people look to her as a sign of hope.
If there is one slight annoyance is that sometimes she can appear a little indecisive. She plays up to the cameras with her love with Peeta but only seems to really love him in the games under intense pressure and conditions. She obviously loves Gale (Liam Hemsworth) but the idea to just run away from the problems doesn’t sit well with him and would rather fight. Don’t worry, this is NOT on the annoyance level like Kate from Lost (because her indecisions were THAT stupid) and it’s evidently clear that both guys love Katniss but I hope it’s resolved in the upcoming films. Nevertheless, Hutcherson and Hemsworth’s performances are significant.
And when you have a fantastic cast supporting J Law, watching Catching Fire is just easy. One actor who typifies that is Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee. His screen time may be brief but I enjoyed his sly duality with Katniss and President Snow. There’s something about Philip Seymour Hoffman that brings a certain gravitas and helps Catching Fire take that next level step. Yet my words will always be tinged with sadness, as he is no longer with us.
President Snow: “Her entire species must be eradicated.”
Plutarch Heavensbee: “Her species, sir?”
President Snow: “The other victors. Because of her, they all pose a threat. Because of her, they all think they are invincible.”
I can’t really say a bad thing about this film because that is how much I enjoyed it (in contrast to the nay-sayers on the internet). You can make your Divergents, your Twilights and your Percy Jacksons, but really The Hunger Games is in a different class altogether. It puts the other films to shame. It’s in the same league as Harry Potter, maybe slightly better, but that’s just a matter of my own opinion. Catching Fire builds upon the solid first film and gives it meaning and purpose. I mean every character suffers one way or another and President Snow is making that happen, just to prove a point to Katniss and to anyone who wants to rebel against the system.
As the final few scenes set up the next film and Coldplay’s track plays out in the end credits (and yes I love Coldplay…deal with it), I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Hell hath no fury like a Katniss scorned.
And again, I ask myself the question:
Why didn’t I watch this at the IMAX?
Why didn’t I watch this at the IMAX?
WHY DIDN’T I WATCH THIS AT THE BLOODY IMAX?
When Mockingjay Part 1 comes out, I have NO excuses.